Peter Sterling and Erin Molan have clashed with Brad Fittler and Paul Gallen on the NRL Footy Show over the punishments handed out to players caught breaking virus restrictions.
Nathan Cleary, Latrell Mitchell and Josh Addo-Carr sparked outrage this week when they were snapped in clear breach of social-distancing laws.
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However the NRL were forced to defend their decision to enable the three players to escape immediate bans, instead hitting them with hefty fines.
Interim CEO Andrew Abdo levied $48,000 worth of fines on Tuesday, but claimed players deserved one more chance before missing matches for bringing the game into disrepute.
As part of the punishments, South Sydney fullback Mitchell and Melbourne winger Addo-Carr were both handed $20,000 fines, with another $30,000 suspended for their weekend of camping and trail bike riding.
Penrith superstar Cleary was also fined $4000 - with another $6000 suspended - after images emerged of him at home with a group of women on Anzac Day.
Things get heated on NRL Footy Show
Discussing the punishments on Sunday, the Footy Show hosts disagreed about whether the punishments were adequate.
While Fittler and Gallen suggested the fines were sufficient, Molan and Sterling believed the NRL should have done more.
Molan even shot down Fittler when the NSW coach refuted claims the players had put people’s lives at risk with their actions.
“He (Mitchell) has invited them. I think Josh Addo-Carr approached him and said my cousins are doing it tough and Latrell said I’m looking after the brothers, come on over,” Molan said.
“So he has consciously allowed them to come.”
Peter Sterling continued: “What’s distasteful, the thing that people don’t like is the sense of entitlement. It’s almost we’re all in this together, except us.”
Things then got a little frosty among the panel members.
Gallen: “But Sterlo can you understand the sense of entitlement, we have the NRL and Peter V’landys going out and doing something that no one else is allowed to do. The NRL is about to come back to play which no one else is allowed to do.”
Sterling: “The players can’t transfer that onto individually that ‘well we can do things differently because our boss is trying to do something different’”.
Gallen: “I just think it encases it all into one situation. It’s stupidity of what they’ve done and I think it’s a line in the sand moment and I’ve said that.”
Sterling: “How many lines in the sand do we need Gal?”
Gallen: “This is it, this is the line in the sand moment, it’s here.”
Molan: “Do you think after two or three months, I don’t care if you don’t watch the news or if you don’t read newspapers, there is nobody in Australia that does not understand what was required of them? There is nobody that doesn’t understand that.”
Gallen: “It was stupid and idiotic and they’ve been punished accordingly for it, what else do we want to see?”
Molan: “So suspensions, you don’t think they should be?”
Gallen: “I don’t think they should be because that punishes the club. I think the hardest place to hit a bloke is in the back pocket and I honestly believe that.
Fittler: “I felt the punishment was appropriate because what they did do, they didn’t react to the media or to what other people thought. Now Gus (Phil Gould) came out and said they should be gone for the year, I like the fact that it looked like the league was actually sticking up for the players and clubs.
“They said to the players you’ve been stupid, you’re putting us all under a lot of pressure, but what we’re going to do is support you here. But if anyone else does it, it’s going to be a totally different fine, which I feel like that was appropriate for the situation.”
Sterling: “This stupidity and entitlement is at a time like no other, like no other. There’s so much more at stake now than what has ever been when we’ve had player misbehaviour. That to me adds to the magnitude of the penalties and the offence because it is putting peoples lives at risk. The people who were on the property up there, we don’t know who they had been around and if you infect three other people it infects more and more.
“There’s so much more at risk in this present day, we can’t be talking about misbehaviour in the past because we’ve never been in this situation before.”
Fittler: “I don’t think what they did was, I don’t think it put lives at risk really. Given the numbers and all that if you’re sitting down and the reality of what they actually did, I don’t think it put lives at risk. But I do think as unbelievably stupid and what they didn’t realise was they could be the face of a game losing $200 million.
Molan: “I think individually you’re saying they’re not really putting lives at risk, but if more and more people do it. You look at London and New York, there is a reason why Australia has a death toll that’s around 100 and why we are so incredibly blessed is because almost everyone is doing the right thing.
“All it takes is for a few people not to do the right thing. We are human beings and the virus is the same virus all over the world, we’re all the same humans and we can be impacted like everywhere else. There’s a reason we’re not and that is because most people are doing the right thing.”